BAY CITY, MI — Events promoter Ken Shelton knows the weird look many people may give him after hearing he’s lassoed rap star Nelly as the climactic act of the three-night Bay City Country Music Festival in June 2023.
“I like country, but I also like other genres,” Shelton said, “and festivals around the country are featuring different artists; and they’re featuring Nelly.”
Most music lovers know Nelly from his early-aughts radio hits, “Hot in Herre,” “Ride wit’ Me,” “Shake Ya Tailfeather” and “Air Force Ones.” But die-hard fans know the Austin-born, St. Louis-raised 48-year-old possesses a hip-hop-heavy discography featuring significant country influences.
His debut album in 2000, after all, was titled “Country Grammar.”
One of Shelton’s favorite Nelly tunes remains “Over and Over,” a collaboration with country singer Tim McGraw that reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 2004.
“Nelly crosses genres,” said Shelton, a Kalamazoo native. “Even with rock music, he has fans. He skips around on rock top 40, rap and country. He’s kind of all-purpose.”
In 2021, Nelly released “Heartland,” an album considered as much country as it was considered rap. The cover art featured Nelly’s trademark St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap merged with a cowboy hat.
Among Nelly’s country collaborators on that album was Jimmie Allen, who will kick off the three-night, Wenonah Park-hosted festival Thursday, June 15.
Mitchell Tenpenny will headline the event’s second night, Friday, June 16.
Nelly will perform Saturday, June 17.
Ticket sales begin at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the State Theatre box office, at Frankenmuth Credit Union locations in Bay City and Frankenmuth, and online at kensheltonpromotions.com.
Tickets for the festival’s three individual concerts range from $45 to $70. A festival pass, providing access all three nights, cost from $115 to $180.
Shelton said fans purchasing tickets on Friday will receive a $10 discount.
Wenonah Park’s capacity is 5,300 people.
“The vibe I’m getting on this is, this could sell out (quickly),” Shelton said of the hype potentially generated by Nelly, whose concert credentials include Super Bowl halftime show performances in 2001 and 2004.
More recently, he performed in April at the Traverse City-based National Cherry Festival and in August at the Genesee County Fair in Flint.
Born Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., the musician later known as Nelly earned three Grammy Awards and nine Billboard Music Awards, although his career stretched beyond recording studios. He played a role in the 2005 film remake, “The Longest Yard,” starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. In the mid-2010s, BET produced two seasons of a reality show about the musician, called “Nellyville.” He also finished in third place on the popular competitive reality TV show on ABC, “Dancing with the Stars.”
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